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Tracking Wolves–Jim Halfpenny
Book Review: Tracking Wolves
James C Halfpenny and Tracy D. Furman. 2010. Tracking Wolves: The Basics. Charleston, SC: A Naturalist’s World. 38 pages.
Dr. Halfpenny is a nationally known naturalist and animal tracker who has trained hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the art and science of tracking. I had the pleasure of attending one of his tracking courses in Wisconsin in December of 2010 and would recommend his training to others.
Tracking Wolves is Halfpenny’s latest work and details the necessary information to identify wolf (Canis lupus) tracks and sign. The book is succinctly written. The authors don’t waste paper or reader’s time with flowery introductions or excessive details. The text begins with a quick checklist of how to distinguish wolf versus dog sign and then moves quickly into a summary of wolf biology. It is critical for readers to understand that track identification requires understanding the tracks in their situational context. Trappers know this intuitively, but Dr. Halfpenny and Ms. Furman detail it explicitly. The text explains the fundamentals of how to measure tracks accurately for failure to do this properly will result in excessive identification errors. The authors provide measurement ranges of tracks for male/female, pups, yearlings, and adults. In addition to track information, the authors explain how to understand and recognize various gait patterns left by walking, trotting, loping, and galloping.
The middle of the book delves into understanding wolf urination patterns as well as identifying their scat. Easy to understand descriptions are provided to help readers distinguish wolf scat from that left by coyote, gray fox, and red fox. Predation sign is also briefly reviewed. The book concludes with several pages on differentiating coyote and dog tracks from wolf.
As noted earlier, the authors bring a great deal of technical skill and background to this book. I believe that everyone interested in identifying wildlife tracks should read the book, or one of Halfpenny’s other books, if only to understand how to measure tracks properly. The book is fully illustrated with plenty of images (some in color) and informative diagrams to illustrate tracking concepts. My only negative comment concerns where the authors found their coyote measurements. Since eastern coyotes are 10 pounds larger than their Western counterparts, knowing whether Halfpenny’s measurements included eastern coyotes is critical to the relevance of the information for eastern readers. Nevertheless, trappers and naturalists living in wolf country would benefit from this text.
Purchasing a Copy
Tracking Wolves can be purchased for $9.95 plus S &H online at http://www.tracknature.com or by calling (406) 848-9458. Please note that A Naturalist’s World is in Mountain time as their address is PO Box 989. Gardiner, MT 59030.
About the Reviewer
Stephen M Vantassel reviews publications for the Fur Taker, the official magazine for the Fur Takers of America. He also has published dozens of articles on wildlife damage management topics and two books. The Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook has recently been revised (2012).
You can contact him at stephenvantassel(at)hotmail(dot)com